Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Whatever happened to being ashamed when you are caught lying?

I cannot believe how much public figures lie to the public with a straight face. I suppose it was always like this, but to me, it seems much more blatant than it used to. Maybe it’s just the fact that the internet makes fact checking very fast and very simple. It’s just not a problem anymore to catch someone with their pants around their ankles. I just guess that they haven’t really caught up to the fact that there is a massive amount of data out there at the fingertips of anyone who has a computer and net access. They haven’t adjusted to the technology of the times, I guess.

Take, for instance, the strange and bizarre case of Robert Novak, aka Novakula. He was reporter whose column publicly named, for the first time, Valerie Wilson/Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. Emptywheel at The Next Hurrah shows that Novak has now changed his story four times, for a total of five different stories he has told about what he got from Richard Armitage.

Here’s a snippet of Marcy’s post.

“Novak wrote this column, clearly, to insist that Armitage told him that Plame worked in Counter-Proliferation, probably because if Armitage didn't say that, then either someone else did, or Novak was high when he used the word "operative." Novak makes this claim twice:

“First, Armitage did not, as he now indicates, merely pass on something he had heard and that he "thought" might be so. Rather, he identified to me the CIA division where Mrs. Wilson worked, and said flatly that she recommended the mission to Niger by her husband, former Amb. Joseph Wilson.


“He had told me unequivocally that Mrs. Wilson worked in the CIA's Counter-Proliferation Division and that she had suggested her husband's mission.

“But Novak has been utterly inconsistent in his story about what Armitage said. Here's what he said in his original column:

“Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him.

“Note, the only attribution he gives to the CPD identification is to the CIA. He changed his story the first time when he switched his attribution that Fall, when he blamed Armitage:

“During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife.

“He didn't make any claims as to how Armitage described Plame when he first started speaking this summer.

“But then he changed that story when Bret Hume interviewed him, now describing what Armitage said as something which would be either WINPAC or CPD. His wife worked in the office of nuclear nonproliferation in the CIA, and she suggested he go.

“In short, Novak's version of what Armitage said to him has taken 5 different forms since he first published this leak in July 2003.
· CIA labels Plame as Counter-Proliferation (CPD)
· Armitage labels Plame as CPD
· Armitage doesn't say anything about CPD
· Armitage labels Plame as Nuclear Non-Proliferation (not CPD)
· Armitage labels Plame as CPD”

O.K., you would think that, as a journalist and television personality, Novak would have some inkling that his past statements were on the record and still publicly available. He should have some idea that people who are very disinclined to believe anything he says about the subject are going to compare his latest statements with all his previous statements. He should also realize that, if they do, they are going to find out that he has been totally inconsistent about what he has been saying. But no. He goes along and utters them with the complete and utter conviction of the compulsive liar that he is, and he is offended if anyone dare question any of his current “trying to get my butt out of a sling here” blathering. And, when he is really up against it, he can always just stalk out of a television studio in the middle of a live broadcast. But shame or embarrassment? No, sorry. Not on the menu today.

This phenomenon seems to be an epidemic these days. George Bush and Dick Cheney with their “Saddam didn’t have anything to do with 9/11 but was intimately tied to Al Qaeda” line. Tom DeLay and pretty much everyone associated with the Abramoff scandal has caught it. George Allen and his three different versions of his Macaca comment seems pretty suspect. And it’s not just politicians. Rich Lowery of the National Review has it as well. He is now in favor of adding many additional troops to Iraq and takes on the stance that his is the perfectly logical position to take. Except he totally ignores that this is exactly 180 degrees opposite of what he was saying just one month ago. That’s not a lie, really, but it certainly seems dishonest unless you fess up to your sudden change of heart at the same time you are introducing your new position, and explain why you changed your mind. That is being truthful. To just come out and state it in a manner which suggests that has been your position all along is a lie of omission if not of commission.

There is one aspect of all these perpetually changing stories that remains constant. No one seems to ever be ashamed that they were caught in a lie or when they change their stories. They just bluster and are full of self-righteous anger that anyone would dare impugn their integrity. Even when the public record shows, unequivocally, that they are full of crap, they remain adamant that they have been consistent throughout and if anyone is at fault, it is the media’s fault for misrepresenting their statements or misunderstanding what was said. Or else, they just ignore the inconvenient fact that they have contradicted themselves in public. Yet, they have no problem with tarring someone like John Kerry as a “flip-flopper”.

There really isn’t any shame left anymore in this country. It has gone into the trash bin, along with other quaint concepts like personal responsibility for one’s actions and fiscal sanity.

UPDATE: I was watching Craig Crawford on Countdown with Keith Olberman last night. They were discussing the new developments in the Plame case. The last thing that Craig said (paraphrasing here) was that, if anyone has learned anything in this whole entangled mess of Plamegate, it is that Robert Novak is a very odd person.

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